“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:10
Last Saturday, I turned 50 years of age. It was no big deal, really. Fifty. Nothing was much different for me on Saturday than it had been on the Friday before. Some friends from church pulled off a genuine surprise party, with the collaboration of my wife, who loves those kinds of things. Among the gifts were a bottle of Geritol and a tube of Bengay. I laughed at that. So far, at least, I haven’t had need of either of those. I still have all my teeth but one, which I lost following a head-on collision in a basketball game while I was in high school. My hair is gray, but every six weeks I fix that with a box of “Just For Men,” medium brown.
It has given me an opportunity for reflection. Surprisingly, I have no regrets. Oh, there are a lot of things I’ve wished I had done differently, but in terms of the big choices and decisions in life, I’m not disappointed. I’m happily married, I feel called by God to my vocation, and I feel a sense of accomplishment in what I have done with my life so far. The realization that I have likely lived past the halfway point in my life isn’t necessarily a sad one. I’m blessed in that I have many things in my life, mostly simple things, that I can do that will relieve the stress and pressure, and bring peace.
A week ago, while attending a conference in the Chicago area, the schedule allowed me to arrive a day early, have dinner with some close friends over in Indiana, and enjoy a little sightseeing in the afternoons and evenings. It’s early fall, and the weather was absolutely wonderful. The car I rented had a sunroof. It was in the mid-60’s so on my way over to Indiana, I opened the roof, rolled down with the windows and enjoyed the drive. The leaves had just started to turn, the wind, blowing out of the north and off Lake Michigan was slightly crisp and smelled wonderful.
On Thursday, after the conference, I headed to the near north side of Chicago and snapped some pictures of Wrigley Field. Then I looked for, and found, a pizza place that served Chicago deep dish pizza. I used to think that we’d be eating Mexican food in heaven, but now I think it will be deep dish pizza from Chicago. On Friday, I drove up to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, prowled around some antique shops, ate the best schnitzel I’ve ever had, and then drove over to Kenosha and took a long walk on the beach. I know that doesn’t sound like much, but I can’t even begin to tell you what a blessing that was for me.
I’ve taken stock and counted a lot of blessings this past week. I understand what it means to have God give you a hope and a future. I was adopted when I was seven months old. I’ve been blessed, not only by being placed with the best parents in the world, but by being able, about ten years ago, to have a conversation with my birth mother, and through communication with her to come to the realization of what a miraculous and wonderful thing that God did for me. My Dad worked hard all his life to provide for us, and though we were not wealthy in terms of financial prosperity, we had an abundance of what was important. Memories of my childhood are able to sustain me during the low moments.
I’ve had some bad times and some close calls. In 1985, at age 28, I contracted a viral infection in my lungs that eventually did some damage to my heart, and left me with an atrial arrythmia, requiring regular medication. For a while, the prognosis was in doubt. That was scary. The cost of maintaining reasonable health insurance, along with medication and treatment, has been a major financial drain. The other side of that is that I am alive, reasonably healthy, and able to live with the effects, and that’s a blessing, too. In light of what could have happened as a result, 50 years is a gift.
I’ve had a couple of career “crises” too. Those of you who understand the irregularities of working for churches or Christian organizations know the heartbreak and the panic that can occur when you discover that you are going to lose your job, and thus your livlihood, as the result of something happening over which you had no control. On one occasion, a split in the church over a building program proposal led to almost half of the congregation leaving in a short period of time, and those words, “We’d like to keep you on, but….” On another, the enrolment of the Christian school where I was working took a hit due to some unforseen circumstances. God has always provided, though it has been in his time and by his means, and not by mine.
Life is a precious gift from God, and even at fifty, there is something to look forward to. There is still a hope and a future, and if it has been this good so far, I can hardly wait for what lies ahead.